The new wave of global public health crisis has upended all our previous expectations. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned 2020 into a year in which mankind has learned profound lessons about the true cost of unsustainable earth system governance. On October 29, 2020, a side event of the 15th annual meeting of the International Conference on Genomics (ICG-15) co-organized by China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) came to a successful conclusion in people’s expectations.
The theme of this side event is “Biodiversity and Omics: Life Science in an Ecological Civilization Era”, which is the same as the ICG-15 online and offline approach, intertwined on-site and remotely, bringing together elite experts and representatives in various fields from all over the world , to discuss a series of key issues from the perspective of ecological civilization: The relationship between humans and nature, genetic and biodiversity research, the causal link between wildlife trade and the current human situation, etc. Focused on the lessons we can learn, discussed how we can create a better future for all by building an ecological civilization and promote biosafety in the post-COVID-19 era.
The Special Envoy for African Parks, the Acting CEO of the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) Foundation, Chair of the Global Alliance to End Wildlife Crime, Chair of the UK Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund John E. Scanlon, remotely brought a keynote speech entitled “Nature is Sending Us a Strong Message: Intruding into Wild Places and Wildlife Trade as Causes of Future Pandemics”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us in a devastating way of the interconnected nature of things, most particularly between economies, the environment, human and wildlife health and welfare. It has raised our awareness of the links between how we treat wildlife and human health. Mr. Scanlon’s presentation explored how we can better protect wild places and change our international framework for regulating wildlife trade and combatting illicit wildlife trafficking.
Deputy Director of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Secretariat, lead author of the fifth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO5), Tim Hirsch remotely gave a keynote titled “DNA-derived data as a tool for mapping biodiversity distributions through GBIF”.
Use of common data standards and a high-powered data indexing and discovery platform enable universal access to data from a wide range of heterogeneous sources of evidence, including collection specimens, human observations, publications, remote sensing, and, to an increasing extent, data derived from DNA evidence. Data accessed through GBIF informs a range of research and policy topics relevant to sustainable development, including conservation, climate change, food security and human health. Recent developments have greatly increased the capacity of GBIF to accommodate data derived from DNA. These include the ability to interpret georeferenced occurrence records not only through conventional Linnean scientific names, but also by means of Operational Taxonomic Units defined by genetic similarity and ‘named’ with identifiers such as Barcoding Index Numbers (BINs) and Species Hypotheses (SH) identifiers for fungi, mapped to the GBIF taxonomic backbone. Large datasets originating from georeferenced DNA sequence information have recently been published through GBIF from the European Nucleotide Archive (ENA), the International Barcode of Life Initiative (iBOL) and the MGnify microbiome metagenomic sequencing network. These developments have the potential to increase massively the volume and taxonomic breadth of data discoverable through GBIF, providing new tools for better understanding the biosphere and the changes it is undergoing.
Associate Professor of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Deputy Secretary-General of China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) Dr. Alice Hughes gave a virtual keynote “Using New Tools to Better Understand Biodiversity Patterns for Conservation and Monitoring”. Dr. Hughes’ presentation discussed some of the types of data that can be used to shed light on biodiversity patterns and processes at a range of processes, and how the application of various types of data can be used to assess changes in ecosystem health, guide priorities and set science-based targets for conservation management moving into the future. It also discussed how different types of data can be integrated to form a more complete and holistic understanding of biodiversity and thus provide better guidance for conservation and management at species and ecosystem levels.
Dr. Zhou Jinfeng, the Secretary-General of CBCGDF brought an on-site keynote presentation entitled “The Innovative Practices for Ecological Civilization” to the audience. Dr. Zhou’s report emphasized the following points:
Moving into the Ecological Civilization Era, the old ideology and practices of Industrial Civilization should be replaced for a sustainable future. His presentation also discussed some of the extreme approaches people considered after the COVID-19 outbreak, and what should be done to further promote the thoughts on Ecological Civilization. The presentation also included the upgrade and current problem in pangolins to shed a light on the current system, the traditional medicine proposal to IUCN for the effect of Ecological Civilization on Life Science.
Dr. Michael Hehenberger remotely brought a beneficial keynote presentation “Our Animal Connection: Opportunities and Challenges”. Dr. Hehenberger was engaged in research collaborations with academic and industrial life sciences organizations while he worked in IBM, focusing on molecular biology, information-based medicine, bio-pharmaceutical drug discovery, unstructured data analytics, genomics and nanomedicine. In 2013, he retired from IBM Research and started the HM NanoMed Partnership where he is focused on writing books, co-organizing conferences and pursuing nanomedical and genomic research topics in the area of Hypoxia. His second book, “Our Animal Connection”, co-authored with Zhi Xia, examines what Sapiens can learn by studying the amazing capabilities of animals and microbial organisms.
His virtual talk introduced the book “Our Animal Connection”, co-authored by him and Zhi Xia. After a brief introduction of life and its evolution on our planet, the authors describe the strengths and weaknesses of homo sapiens, and how human health could benefit from the study of animals and microbial life. Important challenges associated with “Our Animal Connection” are the transmission of pathogens leading to infectious diseases, and our ongoing depletion of habitats leading to extinctions and reduced diversity.
Associate Professor of Institute of Hydrobiology (IHB), Chinese Academy of Science, vice Secretary-General of Chinese Protozoological Society Xiong Jie gave an on-site keynote speech “The Protist 10,000 Genomes Project”. The protists, which made up the Protista, was regarded as one of the five kingdoms of life. But only a few of protist genomes have been sequenced. There is a huge gap to understand the origin, evolution, and diversity of protists.
Scientists in China jointly launched the Protist 10,000 Genomes Project (P10K) to generate the whole-genome sequences (WGS) of 10,000 protists and create new reference genomes for the representative species of different lineage of protists, which will make it feasible to decipher the genome sequences of protists, reconstruct their phylogenetic tree and accordingly address fundamental scientific questions of broad interest.
Ms. Stephanie Ghislain leads the “Trade & Animal Welfare” Programme at Eurogroup for Animals, a pan-European animal advocacy organization. She was also a member of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Trade Negotiations and represents Eurogroup for Animals on the EU Domestic Advisory Groups (DAGs). The remote presentation she brought, focused on the recent COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on zoonoses and the connection between their spread and the way we treat wild and farmed animals. Over 60% of all human infectious diseases recognized so far are zoonoses and scientists believe much more remain to be discovered. Wild animals have carried viruses and bacteria for millennia. What has changed is the way humans interact with them and the pressure that they put on their natural habitats. While intensive farming can also be pointed at as a driver of the spread of zoonoses, this presentation will focus on legal and illegal wildlife trade.
After a presentation of the numerous negative impacts the trade in wildlife has not only on the welfare of these animals but also on public health and on animal conservation, a new tool to better regulate this trade will be presented: the “positive list” system. This mechanism implies to define a list of species that can be traded, rather than one of the species that cannot. The criteria used range from welfare to impact on human health and on the environment. Such a system has already been adopted by five EU Member States. It is seen as a very comprehensive solution to tackle all issues related to wildlife trade, be them linked to public health, animal welfare or animal conservation.
The last on-site theme sharing of the side event was brought by Associate Professor of College of Life Sciences, Jianghan University, Secretary-General of Biological and Scientific Ethics Committee (BASE) of CBCGDF, Dr. Sara Platto, titled “Biodiversity Loss and COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of Bats in the Origin and the Spreading of the Disease”.
The loss of biodiversity in the ecosystems has created the general conditions that have favored and, in fact, made possible, the insurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of factors have contributed to it: deforestation, changes in forest habitats, poorly regulated agricultural surfaces, mismanaged urban growth. Among the wildlife, Bats are major hosts for αCoV and βCoV. In time, the coronaviruses that bats host as reservoirs have undergone recombination and other modifications that have increased their ability for inter-species transmission: one modification of particular importance has been the development of the ability to use ACE2 as a receptor in host cells. This particular development in CoVs has been responsible for the serious outbreaks in the last two decades, and for the present COVID-19 pandemic.
It is worth mentioning that during the break of the sub-forums, the moderator Dr. Sara Platto paid tribute to the ICG-15 Organizing Committee. To implement Sustainable Development Goals, the ICG-15 adopts the “Green Meeting Index” (GMI, T/CGDF 00001-2019) proposed by CBCGDF, by reducing printing materials, reducing disposable bottle water and suppling refilled water, reducing food waste, holding online and offline simultaneously to reduce the carbon footprints, to contribute efforts from academia and industry to achieve China’s becoming carbon neutral before 2060.
Click https://www.sciconf.cn/m/lives/details/2722?lang=cn&scene=ok&state=1603677911&openid=oXzmFjoCBS3GKBn45PE_VSyKyCeU to watch the side event’s replay and the live broadcast of the ICG-15 conference.
Links for reference:
The ICG-15 official website:
Original Chinese article:
By / Maggie